Bonn climate change talks aim to pick up the pieces from Copenhagen


A FRESH round of UN climate change talks got under way in Bonn yesterday in an effort to pick up the pieces after last December’s summit in Copenhagen and pave the way for firmer action.

“The Copenhagen meeting may have postponed an outcome for at least a year, but it did not postpone the impacts of climate change,” said the UN’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, who is stepping down on July 1st to become “global adviser” to KPMG consultants.

“The deadline to agree an effective international response to climate change at Copenhagen was set because governments, when launching negotiations in Bali in 2007, recognised the scientific warning on climate for what it was: a siren call to act now, or face the worst.”

The two-week round of talks in Bonn, with 182 governments represented, is aimed at setting the agenda for “cop 16” – the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Mexican resort of Cancún in December.

From today, the ad hoc working group on long-term co-operative action under the convention will begin discussing a new negotiating text drafted by its chairwoman, Zimbabwean diplomat Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe; it is said to be very short on specifics.

A second ad hoc working group, dealing with further commitments by countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol, is also meeting in Bonn, and Mr de Boer urged it to “develop greater clarity” on the future of the protocol, as this issue “cannot be left unattended until Cancún”.

The outgoing UN climate chief has conceded that inviting heads of state and government to the Copenhagen summit “seriously backfired” because their presence there, instead of acting as a catalyst, resulted in the process becoming “paralysed [by] rumour and intrigue”.

In Bonn, he expects negotiators to make progress on key areas such as forests, finance for developing countries and cuts in emissions.

“Cancún can deliver if promises of help are kept and if promises to compromise are honoured in the negotiations,” he said.

Mr de Boer was referring to pledges made by developed countries in Copenhagen to find $30 billion (€24.38 million) from now to 2012 in short-term finance to “kick-start” action by developing countries in adapting to the consequences of climate change.

“Recent pledges by Spain and Germany towards the adaptation fund have been useful first steps to build trust among developing nations, but we must see more concrete contributions from other countries in the run-up to Cancún, to deliver on what they promised five months ago.”

Mr de Boer will be succeeded as UNFCCC executive secretary by Christiana Figueres, who has long experience of the climate talks, having served as a negotiator for Costa Rica since the first conference in Berlin in 1995. She has also been active in promoting sustainable development.

Ms Figueres has said that one of her immediate priorities will be to “strengthen trust” in the process, following admissions by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that it was wrong to predict that the Himalayan glaciers would melt as early as 2035.